Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.
USA, 2009, 71 min, Dir. Steven Soderbergh
It's the lead-up to the 2008 election and Chelsea's clients are tired. As a high-end escort, she works with men who fret over the stock market collapse. Men who advise her to invest in gold and pay her for the "girlfriend experience." But at the end of the day, Chelsea (played by Sasha Grey) sheds her alias to become Christine, a woman who lives with her boyfriend. He's a personal trainer who services the same sort of men but in a different capacity.
The Girlfriend Experience has an understated Soderberghian cool. People dress in expensive clothing and talk at low volumes against swanky backdrops. The sex is implied, never explicit. Soderbergh is more interested in the emotional experience Chelsea gives her clients, as well as the 2008 financial collapse and the mundanity of sex work.
In her first mainstream picture, adult film star Sasha Grey is appropriately enigmatic and alluring, if not a little stiff. The character of Chelsea/Christine seems lived-in, which makes the film almost feel like a documentary. The film, produced for $1.3 million, premiered on an early version of Amazon Prime Video but has since disappeared from the platform. Soderbergh retooled the premise for a 2016 Starz TV show of the same name. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Mexico, 2003, 89 min, Dir. Gabriela Tagliavini
The rare romcom dares to be great, and the even rarer one dares to be Bad. Ladies Night is one of those Bad romcoms, an early 2000s Mexican film about a virgin and a slut who are drugged and robbed by a very hot stripper. Somehow, one of them falls in love with the stripper (it's probably his body), and the group travels all over Mexico City trying to find him.
I primarily love this movie because it is fun, but I also love its style. We tend to be fascinated by things that are twenty years behind us. (This is my Twenty Year Theory, which I adapted from my boyfriend who works as an antiques dealer; people in 2021 love to buy things from 2001, the 2000s mimicked the '80s, etc, etc.) With Ladies Night's slut character, we get a woman who is a hiccup away from being emo. All the technology in the film is blocky, and there are animated interludes that remind me of Lizzie McGuire. The stripping sequences are so stupid and colorful. A majority of straight dude viewers will hate this movie, but there's an audience for it, and I'm a part of it. CHASE BURNS
France, 2002, 90 min, Dir. Claire Denis
The day before Laure (Valérie Lemercier) moves in with her boyfriend, she gets caught in a traffic jam on her way to a friend's house due to a Paris transit strike. She's encouraged by the radio to pick up pedestrians, and so the gruff-but-kind-eyed Jean (Vincent Lindon) gets into her car. The attraction is immediate. Laure ends up canceling her plans to roll around with this stranger, eat pizza with him, and fantasize with him. Their relationship doesn't exist outside the confines of that night, but it's wonderfully delicious in its spontaneity and impermanence.
I stumbled on Friday Night after reading about another one-night stand film, Barry Johnson's Medicine for Melancholy. Johnson, a noted Denis fan, said he took a lot of inspiration for his feature from the French director. The similarities are apparent. I've never longed for traffic as I did after this film. JASMYNE KEIMIG
United Kingdom, 2004, 30 min episodes, Dir. Richard Ayoade
Richard Ayoade is a genuinely genius weirdo. The English actor and director and general Renaissance Man is maybe most known for his work on The IT Crowd, although he's done a considerable amount of mainstream Hollywood work, like voice acting for Soul and The Lego Movie 2. But he got his start with some deep Adult Swim shit called Garth Marenghi's Darkplace.
This one-season British horror parody TV show is based around a fictional horror author named Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness) and his producer (Richard Ayoade, who also directs). The lore goes that the two created a TV series in the 1980s that flopped so hard it wasn't even broadcast. But then, in the 2000s, it was picked up and revisited. This is where viewers see the current show, with Marenghi and his producer giving interviews about the random perils and mistakes that occurred in the original filming, of which there are many. The show heavily parodies the '80s, and the synthy soundtrack gives you an idea of what you're in for.
It was broadcast late in the night and initially failed to pick up an audience, but that has more to do with the marketing than its material. It's extraordinary, dark, and funny. CHASE BURNS
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.